Bucknell Musician Spotlight: Michael Strauss
Meet Michael Strauss. The charming young gentleman is a senior on campus, and his resume is nothing to sneeze about; he's a dominant figure in both the Bucknell music and theatre scenes. Michael was the former leader of The Bison Chips last year, is the lead singer of the Sigma Phi Epsilon house band "The SPEatles," and performs often in 7th street to engaged audiences. His most recent play took place this homecoming weekend, "Black Comedy," where he starred as "Colonel Melkett" to a hysterical audience. I tracked him down to ask him some questions - you know, what was on his mind. Q: What’s playing on your iPod now Strauss?
A: “Riptide” by Vance Joy is playing right now. I’ve also picked up a lot of Fleetwood Mac; I’ve always been interested in them, but never got around to listen to them. Also Paul Simon, as always. What a man.
Q: In the ways that you express yourself through the arts, which is your favorite?
A: They’re all so different. As an artist the way I see performing, theater should be efficacious in its nature. I don’t mean that in a didactic way, but I think theater should be a comment on our society. When it comes to music, its about bringing passion and emotional spirit to the stage. I love singing with The Bison Chips, but it limits itself to 4 years. I can always play guitar, but can’t sing in the chips my whole life, you know?
Q: Who has been your biggest musical inspiration?
A: It’s kinda weird, but I was sitting in a car in 7th grade and heard "Bohemian Rhapsody." I was like, "This is awesome! What is this?" I immediately bought a bunch of Queen CD's, and that’s when I actually started listening to music. In terms of what actually inspires me when I perform, I'd definitely have to say Elvis Presley; I love everything about his music. Also, Bruce Springsteen is the best performer ever; I saw him at Penn State last year and was vibing off of that performance for a month. He’s 60 years old and still blew everyone out of the water. That’s amazing.
Q: Do you have a favorite concert or performance that you’ve done?
A: Freshman year Chipfest (the biggest Bison Chips concert) was so cool. We came in hot right off of the 35th reunion, so a ton of alumni came back. We usually call the alumni up for the last two songs and so many came up! This showed the connection and reciprocal bond through the group through the decades. The concert rocked too; packed house, big crowd.
Q: When did music become a major part of your life?
A: I’ve always really just loved music, but didn’t necessarily know how to play music. When my grandma passed away, we inherited a piano. I had no idea what anything meant on it, but I would just hear things out and play melodies on my right hand. I was able to transpose things into keys, and I found I had some sort of ear for it; so, my mom made me take piano lessons. I then got a Beatles CD and then was like, "Wow I love music." I loved playing music more and more. Eventually I learned more theory and moved towards jazz, but that’s how I got my start.
Q: Outside of music, what other hobbies/ activities keep you busy?
A: Right! So we are just finishing a show called "Black Comedy." Its like being a varsity athlete. 4 hours of rehearsal 6 days a week; that keeps me very busy. I really enjoy writing and watching movies. I like to watch good movies, particularly ones that reflect my artistic vision. I like to act - it's basically my hobby.
Q: Whats your opinion of the Bucknell music scene? Is it something thats lacking, something unique, typical college scene, etc.?
A: It's not as typical as it could be. A lot of Universities have bands, but our bands revolve around the Greek scene because the school is so Greek. I'd love to see a band simply started because people just love music and want to play in a band. We have great concerts at Bucknell; I'd love to see more attendance at 7th street events too. "Josh Ritter Trio" came here, but the advertising wasn’t geared towards the students so not many people went, although it was a really cool concert. I’d love to see a music festival on campus. It would be cool and change the music scene and culture at Bucknell.
Q: Well Michael, Campus Vinyl BucknellU may be in the process of doing exactly that. Come back next fall to check it out. But meanwhile, any last thoughts?
A: Performing is important for both the artist and the audience. It’s important because it’s a cultural experience; people learn things from it and grow from performances, and it's also enjoyable. That’s why music is important to me; it can actually evoke emotions. Music takes me to a different place every time I listen. Certain songs will take me to December of sophomore year, or a snowy night somewhere else. Its cool, man. I really like that.